The New York Times – from Print to Digital

The Internet and mobile phones have drastically changed the newspaper industry, including The New York Times.

Overview

“Our organization was built for the print era and now must be redesigned for the mobile era.” – The New York Times. (1)

Digital transformation has had a dramatic effect on the newspaper industry, including The New York Times (“NYT”). With news moving from print to online, the industry has experienced a shift in reader behavior that has impacted both their business and operating models. Many newspapers groups, like Tribune Company, have failed and filed for bankruptcy. (2)

NYT’s financials illustrate the impact of digitization. In 3Q 2016, print advertising revenue fell 19% and overall advertising revenue fell 8%. Print advertising fell 14% the previous quarter. However, digital advertising revenue (36% of total advertising revenue) increased 21% in 3Q 2016. (3)

Business Model

Historically, NYT and other print newspapers were the primary sources of up-to-date information. Newspapers not only offered content on a timely basis but also provided analysis of the day’s ihot topics. Reporters relied on long-term relationships to scoop news, which publishers produced using printing machinery.

NYT generated revenue from print subscriptions as well as print advertising. By delivering the “best journalism” and touting a wide subscription base, NYT attracted advertisers seeking a wide audience.

However, with the Internet, information has become a commodity. Anyone can post a video to YouTube or share a blogpost. Further, readers have come to expect a constant stream of news on multiple digital platforms. And these same readers have set up ad blockers to the dismay of advertisers.

And so it’s no longer enough for NYT to provide print news. Instead, NYT provides up-to-date digital briefings, live blogging, and sophisticated analytics to appeal to readers. Teams in graphics, interactive news, digital design, CMS and technology have been hired to provide dynamic news in a digital format. Journalists and editors have been trained to use Google analytics and other tools to gauge what readers want (1).

NYT has also merged business and journalism to remain attractive to advertisers. It now provides sponsored content. NYT looks to further commercialize content by creating and identifying editorial projects that can be sponsored. To do this, NYT created a new role for Trish Hall (formerly deputy editorial editor) to work with both editorial and business teams. (4)

Operating Model

Newspapers used to deliver news and generate revenue through physical print. However, with the Internet and smart phones in particular, news is now consumed online on a real time basis on multiple digital platforms. Many readers no longer even go to the newspaper’s website. Instead, content is discovered through news aggregators such as blogs and Twitter.

NYT has go online and offers different levels of digital and print access. Over the years, the newspaper has experimented with various pay scales such as a free app, a number of free articles per month, and different pricing tiers based on level of access (i.e. smart phone access only, web access only, print and all digital access). NYT has further responded to digitization by changing the type of content it offers online. Content has expanded from just text to video and live events. To push out this content, NYT has invested in accommodating different digital mediums such as smartphones and Apple watches (1).

NYT has also realized that distribution is not limited to its own channels but a network of other news sources. As a result, NY has been leveraging other platforms such as Facebook instant articles, Apple news, and Snapchat. (1)

What Next?

For NYT to remain competitive in an age of digital transformation, it must adapt to what readers and advertisers want.

  • Increased reader interaction: NYT can increase reader engagement by allowing readers to be providers of news content like The Huffington Post. The appeal of NYT is certainly its high quality journalism, but there is room for “home-grown” new section.
  • Software engineers & data scientists: NYT has already invested in building out its digital and technology teams but can further build out and integrate these roles into business and content teams. By providing differentiated analysis – both historic and predictive – readers will have a reason to come to NYT specifically.
  • In-bound marketing by industry councils: While NYT already has sponsored content from specific companies, it may want to explore content that provides industry education, which is sponsored by an industry council. This may seem more objective than a story sponsored by a specific company.
  • News aggregators and influencers: NYT writers such as Nicholas Kristof have become brands in their own right. These individuals should be further encouraged to share their content on Twitter and other digital platforms to drive traffic to NYT website.

Word count: 764

(1) http://www.nytco.com/wp-content/uploads/Our-Path-Forward.pdf

(2) http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB122876270495988567

(3) http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/03/business/media/new-york-times-co-reports-an-advertising-drop-though-digital-results-grew.html

(4) http://www.niemanlab.org/2015/10/4-takeaways-from-the-new-york-times-new-digital-strategy-memo/

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4 thoughts on “The New York Times – from Print to Digital

  1. The shift towards the mobile era definitely poses a significant challenge for the print news industry. I wonder if the NYT will ever get rid of print altogether — or perhaps only deliver printed copies to those with personal subscriptions (rather than stores for sale). If that were the case, they’d have a lot of equipment they’d need to find a way to sell. I also wonder how the NYT will remain profitable as people develop expectations that online media content should be free. You’ve mentioned a few different strategies that they are pursuing. I’m just not confident that a subscription service will be a feasible source of revenue generation in a world where there are so many easy online work-arounds.

  2. Interesting article AC – in your research, did you come across the leaked innovation report? (http://www.niemanlab.org/2015/10/4-takeaways-from-the-new-york-times-new-digital-strategy-memo/). This preceded the memo NYT released last year, and the two together provide a rare and remarkable degree of transparency into how the NYT is grappling with these challenges.

    An additional benefit to your suggestion of user generated content would be the potential for cost savings. UGC could supplement staff writers as a lower cost source of content (e.g., vs. paid contributors) in all sections of the paper. However, given the NYT brand, rigorous curation to ensure quality would be key to using this effectively.

  3. Hi AC, I couldn’t agree more with your point about the need for the NYT (and the news industry at large) to incorporate more and more software engineers and data scientists. A real challenge that news publications face on that front is finding people with the right mix of skills. It is rare for computer science majors to choose to pursue a career in journalism when they can earn so much more by joining big tech companies in Silicon Valley. Likewise, journalism majors rarely have the advanced skill level that would be needed for major breakthroughs in the field. Academia is taking steps to catch up, however. In 2011, Columbia University launched a dual master’s program in journalism and computer science with the intent to prepare graduates for the news industry’s growing need for professionals with advanced tech backgrounds coupled with knowledge of journalism’s best practices. You can learn more about the program at: https://journalism.columbia.edu/journalism-computer-science.

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